Never Too Early, Never Too Late

By Paula Marolewski, November 30, 2009 12:27 pm

Are you suffering from anxiety today?

Perhaps it isn’t debilitating. You just can never seem to relax. Even on the weekends or on vacation, your mind is going a mile a minute and you feel wound up. You just wish you could let go and feel yourself drift again on a sea of peaceful daydreams.

Perhaps it is interfering with your life. The pressure never lets up and you can feel the clutch of tension in your chest. You can’t seem to live in the present – the past and the future hound you like a pack of wild dogs.

Perhaps it has destroyed you. Your life is in shambles. Relationships strained or broken. Opportunities lost. Life is a waking hell and you wonder how long you can endure.

I have good news for you: it is never too early to go for counseling. You can stop the anxiety in its tracks and reclaim a balanced lifestyle.

And it is never too late to ask for help. No matter what the toll is that anxiety has taken on your life, there is help and there is hope.

Trust me – today, you can take a step toward changing your life for the better.

It is never too early, and never too late.



© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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Giving God Permission?

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By Paula Marolewski, November 23, 2009 10:10 am

Yesterday, while talking with a friend, she commented that her pastor had used the following phrase in prayer:

“Lord, we give you permission …”

She inquired what I thought of the phrase, because, she said, it made her very uncomfortable.

I thought about this quite a bit, and I would like to offer the following for consideration:

First, I suspect that what is meant by the phrase is the following (greatly expanded): “Lord, we recognize that we have free will. And because of our free will, we can quench your Spirit from working in our lives. We don’t want to do that. We want you to act and move in our lives as you desire. We therefore choose, with our free will, to cooperate with your Spirit, rather than to frustrate your Spirit.”

If that is the intention of such a prayer, there is certainly no theological issue with it. However, there may be a semantic issue with it.

The semantic issue is what my friend was responding to when she said the phrase “we give you permission” made her uncomfortable. And it is this: the term “permission” carries with it certain connotations. Namely, “permission” often indicates hierarchy:

  • A parent gives permission to a child.
  • A teacher gives permission to a student.
  • An employer gives permission to an employee.

If the listener brings that connotation to bear on the phrase, then there is a disconnect: the phrase can be construed by the listener to mean that we (humans) are in a hierarchical position above God. We give him permission because we’re on top of the heap.

Now, if the phrase is taken with that connotation, there is a theological problem, because humans are most emphatically not above God – not even when there is a question of free will. God is sovereign, period.

The conclusion? Simply this: when you are speaking, particularly in a public situation, be aware of what connotations your listeners may bring to the words you speak. Be on the lookout for situations, like the above, where what you say may be misconstrued. If possible, re-phrase to avoid problematical interpretations. 

How might we re-phrase the above to avoid this possible misunderstanding? Perhaps this way:

“Lord, we earnestly ask you to …”

After all, we wouldn’t be asking God to do something we didn’t want him to do and that we weren’t willing to cooperate with him on. And this phrase puts us clearly in the appropriate position as supplicants before the throne of God. 

Certainly, we can’t be 100% sure that 100% of the people who hear us will understand what we are saying – and what we intend to say – with 100% accuracy. That would be impossible. Just be alert, be aware, and be careful. Do your best.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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The Case of the Open and Shut Mouth

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By Paula Marolewski, November 18, 2009 6:48 pm

Okay, I admit it – I really enjoy the Perry Mason novels by Erle Stanley Gardner. Hence the title of this post. (Some of Gardner’s Mason novels were The Case of the Lucky Loser, The Case of the Terrified Typist, The Case of the Waylaid Wolf … you get the point!)

I always thought it sounded so leveling when Mason would object in court that his opponent was presenting evidence that was “Incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial!” And then I wondered – does God ever deliver that divine objection to us? For instance …

… when Abraham protested that he was 100 years old?

… when Moses complained that he couldn’t speak eloquently?

… when Isaiah confessed his sinfulness?

… when Jeremiah claimed that he was too young to be a prophet?

… when Mary pointed out her virginity?

… when Peter denied Jesus?

… when Paul persecuted the church?

In every case, we as humans would say, “Yes, that is a good argument as to why you can’t succeed/God can’t work/it can’t happen!”

But God stands up in the court of human affairs and thunders, “Incompetent, irrelevant, immaterial!”

He is the God of the Universe: 

  • No excuse is acceptable to him,
  • No problem is insurmountable to him,
  • No sin is unforgivable by him, and
  • No person is unusable by him!

So if you find yourself opening your mouth to say, “But, God …!” shut it immediately. All “buts” are “incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial” when God is at work!


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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Easy vs. Simple

By Paula Marolewski, November 16, 2009 3:39 pm

The older I get, the more I see a peculiar dichotomy:

Life becomes more and more complicated, because:

  • Pat answers don’t fit anymore.
  • People are more complex than I’d ever imagined.
  • Situations are more tangled than I could even believe possible.

Yet life also becomes more and more simple, because as my understanding of God expands, I see that:

  • His knowledge is deeper than all the pat answers in the world – he is Wisdom.
  • His salvation extends to every soul in need – he is Love.
  • His power is sovereign over all the mess we make of our lives – he is Grace.

Perhaps a part of maturity is to come to the realization that life will never be easy – but that as we trust God more and more, it can become simple again.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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Restoring Our Love for the Lost

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By Paula Marolewski, November 11, 2009 5:23 pm

Evangelism. We’re all supposed to share the Good News with the people around us, but we often fail to do so. We’re afraid of rocking the boat, afraid of being inadequate to the task, afraid of rupturing the relationships we have with others.

But I wonder … is the real problem on occasion actually a matter of the heart? That we have lost our love for the lost?

If we really love someone and want to see them saved from an eternity in hell, isn’t it a measure of that love that we are willing to rock the boat to give them the opportunity to gain that infinite reward? Isn’t it worth stumbling for the right words, even opening our mouth and putting our foot in it, if it will give the true Word of God the chance to be heard? If our relationship with someone is really of value to us, don’t we want it to continue – forever?

Have we lost our love for the lost? “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son…” (John 3:16).

What are we willing to give?

How much do we truly love?


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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What Are You Doing Here?

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By Paula Marolewski, November 9, 2009 5:50 pm

Elijah had beaten the priests of Baal at Mount Carmel and outrun Ahab to Jezreel – but when Jezebel tacked up a “Most Wanted” poster, he tucked his tail between his legs and ran.

You know the story – the wind, the fire, the earthquake. Then the still, small voice of God.

Remember what God said first?

He asked a question (I Kings 19:13):

“What are you doing here, Elijah?”

I don’t think the question was reproachful or demanding. In the previous verses, God had provided angelic cookery for his weary prophet, and comforted him with gentle words. Perhaps God even asked his question with a hint of a smile:

“Elijah, you’ve seen me stop the rain for three years, provide for you by the stream at Cherith, supply flour and oil for you and the widow and her son, raise the boy from the dead, bring down fire from heaven, and restore water to the earth. Yet here you are, living in a place of fear and doubt and depression. What are you doing here?”

Does God sometimes ask that of us? I think so. When I consider everything God has done for me over the decades in which I have trusted him, I am astonished and overwhelmed. He has never failed me. Never forsaken me. Yet all too easily, I fall into fear and doubt and depression. It is then that I hear his still, small voice asking me the same question: “What are you doing here?”

And here’s the key: I have a choice about where I am going to live. I can live in fear and doubt and depression, looking only at the problems that surround me. Or, I can live in confidence and faith and strength, looking only at my God who is sovereign over all.

Where are you living today? And is God perhaps asking you, gently inquiring,

“What are you doing here?”


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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My Trust IS the Lord

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By Paula Marolewski, November 5, 2009 9:51 am

A thought for the day from Jeremiah 17:7:

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD
         And whose trust is the LORD.”

As I read this verse this morning, I pondered why Jeremiah put in both phrases: “who trusts in the Lord” and “whose trust is the Lord.” I thought of it this way: sometimes, when we put our trust in the Lord, we subconsciously (or consciously!) expect him to act in a certain way. In essence, we are saying, “I trust in the Lord to do this certain thing that I want.” But he doesn’t always do what we want – that’s a fact of life. And if that’s as deep as our trust goes, our trust and faith are going to be shaken quite regularly.

That is why, I think, Jeremiah put in the second phrase: “and whose trust is the Lord.” So that when God does not do the things I want or expect or desire, I need to trust who he is, that is, his character and nature: loving, gentle, kind, just, purposeful, gracious, patient, etc. This is where we find unshakable trust and faith: no matter what happens, no matter what he does or does not do. We know that he works all things together for good, because he is good. We know his actions, whatever they are, are loving because he is love.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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How Should the Church Respond to Mental and Emotional Problems?

By Paula Marolewski, November 2, 2009 5:51 pm

As the Church, it is imperative that we do not take a simple view toward mental and emotional illness. We cannot label it an exclusively spiritual problem (“You must have sin in your life or you wouldn’t be having this problem.”) and expect that confession and repentance will take care of the issue. Neither can we take an exclusively clinical approach and say that all mental or emotional illness is the result of a physiological imbalance in the brain. Instead, hard as it is, it is vital to understand that we are integrated as people: mind, emotions, spirit, body, etc. and that mental and emotional issues are frequently the result of some combination of those elements, and very often touch every aspect of our lives.

For instance, take the case of severe anxiety, which I discuss in my book Fire in My Mind: Personal Insights and Practical Help for Severe Anxiety. My own anxiety was triggered by a long-term high-stress situation. No sin involved. Just the stress of starting my own business. It was then exacerbated by the fact that, over time, my body and brain chemistry shifted due to the overload of adrenaline, resulting in anxious feelings regardless of the circumstances I found myself in. (I recommend Dr. Archibald Hart’s book The Anxiety Cure for a very complete discussion of the physiology of anxiety.) This then led very naturally to emotional depression and to spiritual doubt, as I was fighting constantly against something I didn’t understand and therefore couldn’t overcome.

It was only through qualified cognitive behavioral counseling that I was able to unravel all these various threads and address the behavioral, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual issues that by then were all involved.

From my personal experience and talking extensively with others, I would therefore sum up the approach that the Church needs to take as follows: Love with knowledge.

Love itself isn’t enough … I have had people who love me very much say some very damaging things to me because they simply didn’t understand severe anxiety and didn’t know any better. They were trying to help, but they harmed instead.

Likewise, knowledge alone isn’t enough. Clinical knowledge keeps people at arm’s length and studies them like a bug under a microscope. Knowledge needs to be tempered by the warmth, caring, support, and encouragement of God’s love.

Love with knowledge is an irresistible combination that will draw many hurting people into the arms of the Church and the Kingdom of God.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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